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05/29/2015

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Neal Tognazzini

Very interesting data -- thanks for doing this work. A question: did you track the "rank" of each author in those publications to see how it compares to the representation at that rank? Submitting to those journals is a luxury that many younger philosophers can't (or don't want to) afford, so I wonder whether the numbers wouldn't seem quite so dismal if we took rank into account? (Well, they would still be dismal, but perhaps for different reasons.)

For example, the data you cite say that 2% of philosophy professors in the US are African-American, and that makes the 0.9% number for Ethics-authors-who-are-racialized-as-black seem particularly bad. But what percent of philosophy professors in the US are both African-American and also at a rank that affords them the opportunity to submit to these top-tier journals?

Of course, the fact that it's often a luxury to be able to submit to top-tier journals is itself part of the problem...

John Turri

It's great to see this data, Alex, thanks for posting it. I had a thought and a question in response.

With respect to the question of baseline comparisons, it's useful to have in view all the comparisons you list. From my perspective, of the ones you list, the most informative comparison is to the composition of the philosophy professoriate (even using the USA as an imperfect proxy). And, with respect to that, it looks like the overall journal-author-diversity is exactly in line with profession: in each case, the total is 7%. The proportions for each diversity category don't match, but the overall proportion is the same. To my mind, this suggests — though, of course, does not in any way prove — that the state of the journals simply reflects the state of the profession in this respect, and that the journals are not a principal instrument by which the status-quo regarding ethnic (un-)diversity is maintained.

It seems clear, as you say, that the actual proportions "certainly can't help the recruitment of students from underrepresented groups into philosophy." At the same time, I was wondering if you thought there was any reason to suspect that it actually hurts. For instance, is there reason to think that potential recruits would ever be in a position to notice this sort of information about the relative frequency of authorship in journals like these? That is, is this the kind of information that influences people's decision to enter into a field?

This question seems important because it could turn out that energy spent on trying to improve the field's diversity is better spent on other things that stand a greater chance of success.

Alexander Guerrero

Hi Neal. Thanks for your comment. I didn't track the rank, but it would be fairly easy to do given the small numbers. Also, I don't think there is very good data on the % of faculty members of different underrepresented groups at different ranks. The 2% number is kind of a rough estimate, to my knowledge.

More to the point, though, I think there's a presupposition of your question that is actually mistaken: namely, that it is a luxury to submit to these journals, presumably because they offer a bad combination of likely acceptance rate and time to decision.

But I think that's actually false. They do all have absurdly low acceptance rates, but all four of them have some of the fastest decision times of any journals in philosophy (all are between 1 and 2.5 months to decision time on average according to the user-submitted data on Andrew Cullison's Journal wiki: http://www.andrewcullison.com/journal-surveys/ ) That's very fast, and make them good gambles for junior people, even given the low acceptance rate (given the very high value of a placement in one of those journals for one's career).

Alexander Guerrero

Hi John. Thanks for your comment. I think it remains striking that the percentage of racialized-as-black and Latina/o authors and editors is as low as it is. There is just no reason that it should be even *lower* than the overall percentage of professors from these categories, particularly given that it is likely that a significantly high percentage of people from these groups work in moral and political philosophy. I'm not sure why we should ignore that particular fact about the data.

As for whether it makes a difference to the recruitment of students, it might be hard to say. I think that it is likely to make a difference, for at least three distinct kinds of reasons.

First, I think these journals end up determining a significant part of what is at the center of moral and political philosophy. If there is a correlation between racial/ethnic diversity of authors and students, and things like topical interests, perspectives, methodology, intuitions about relative importance--then there might well be significant effects on what is taught and discussed and valued and what is of initial interest to people from underrepresented backgrounds. The ratio of articles on Rawls and justice to articles on race and justice is out of alignment, we might fear.

Second, I think that if we are engaged in efforts to diversify the authors read in introductory philosophy classes, then we make this task considerably harder by having leading journals in which the authors are not at all diverse. There may just be fewer articles to assign by members of underrepresented groups (they may get driven out of the profession or end up not publishing as much). But it also may be that their work is less salient, harder to find, less likely to be noticed by the casual browser of journals who isn't particularly looking to offer a more diverse syllabus but who might end up doing so if s/he happened upon the right piece.

Third, I think that students--especially PhD students, but even undergraduates--are very good at picking up signals about what "counts" as central, and what is at the periphery. Publishing in these journals and being on these editorial boards is a way of being prominently in the center. Students from underrepresented groups thinking about philosophy as a profession might well perceive that people from underrepresented groups, people like them, are generally relegated to the periphery. For high-achieving students with lots of options, that makes philosophy look relatively unattractive.

John Turri

Hi Alex,

Just to be clear, I didn't say that we should ignore it (in fact, I re-stated it). I'm just pointing out that the aggregate proportion of authors in these three categories basically matches their aggregate proportion in the profession. If we assume the numbers you report for the (US) profession as the baseline, Black and Latina/o authorship looks to fall below what could be expected, whereas Asian authorship looks like it exceeds expectations. Given the sample size — an admirably high N, by the way! — I assume that these would turn out statistically significant.

One thing to keep in mind is that it's possible that authors in these (and other!) categories might have a different opinion about what counts as a leading journal. That could affect expectations for the relative proportions of authorship in these particular venues, because it would affect the proportion of people in the various categories who submit to the journal in the first place. For instance, I'm not sure whether Cornell West ever viewed it as a priority to publish in any of these journals. Of course, as one of your suggestions in the OP implies, data on this is simply not available, so the discussion inevitably becomes speculative here.

Your points about how it might matter for recruitment definitely strike me as worth considering (one caveat below). A complementary approach, which relates to the point of the preceding paragraph, is to start viewing other venues as "central" or "agenda-setting" or a source of readings for classes all the way from intro courses up to graduate seminars. Individuals have much more control over this sort of thing than they do over the norms/procedures/etc. that determine the relative proportion of authorship in a suite of journals.

(The caveat. As far as I'm aware, philosophy's un-diversity problem starts really early in the pipeline, perhaps even including the decision to take even one (elective) philosophy course in the first place. If that's the case, then the final point you make — about the effect of students picking up signals — strikes me as highly improbable. My experience might be idiosyncratic, but I've not found these sorts of signals to be reliably detected by students before they are advanced undergraduates, and often not until after that.)

Alexander Guerrero

Hi John. Thanks again. I think it would be great if leading African-American philosophers and members of other underrepresented groups saw these venues as places in which their work might be taken seriously. It's certainly true that in fact I think members of underrepresented groups are well aware of these basic numbers (and topical/methodological/stylistic preferences), and so don't see these journals as central for them.

And I agree with the point that we (I'm not sure exactly who I'm including in this "we") should read more broadly and inclusively, and that this is a complementary strategy. There are some limits here, though, just in terms of how much work is being produced, and in terms of how things count (or not) for hiring, promotion, and various forms of esteem and prestige. It's not so easy to just change those norms. It strikes me as actually much easier to change the journals. (I mean, this only requires a few people to make different decisions in a few key places...)

As for the caveat, here I think I disagree, but it might be a matter of one's experience. In my short time in the profession at NYU and Penn, I have already been approached by something like 10 very talented undergraduate students from underrepresented groups who were interested in philosophy, interested enough to think about graduate school. (I may get more students in this category coming my way based on what I teach and my last name, but who knows.) So far, 9 of those 10 have made the very reasonable choice to go to law school, rather than to go into philosophy, largely because they felt enthusiastically welcomed into law, rather than aggressively uninvited to the professional philosophy party (my words, not theirs, but something like that was the sentiment). Of course there also are other factors, and many students reasonably decide not to opt for the professional philosophy route. But given how small the numbers actually are of PhD students from these underrepresented groups, it seems to me that it would make a very big difference if rather than 1 out of 10 (or something much less than that) it was something more like 3 or 4 out of 10 who decide to give philosophy a go. It would make an even bigger difference if we all felt that we could robustly encourage such students to go into philosophy, because it would be at least as welcoming as other historically discriminatory professions (law, medicine, etc.). But right now it's not, and we can't.

LK McPherson

Alex,
Thanks for publicizing your findings, for your patient and entirely reasonable comments, and for not passing the buck to the old, familiar "pipeline problem."

On a personal note, I'd not feel particularly uncomfortable submitting to any of the four journals you surveyed--and I've published (or co-published) in three of them. This is in contrast to Mind, Nous, and Phil Review, for example--where I wouldn't bother.

Shelley Tremain

Alex, thanks for this terrific work. Your findings and remarks in the post and the comments thus far (your comments and other commenters') revolve exclusively around the demographics of the authors. I'd like to know if you recognized any patterns with respect to subject matter, perspective, and approach of the racialized and ethnicized authors whose work appeared in these four journals. For example, were the published articles in mainstream/ traditional areas, such as distributive justice and Kantian ethics, as opposed to on counter-canon or non-traditional subjects such as racial identity or epistemological ignorance? (Tommie Shelby and Mike Otsuka, who have both published in PAPA, write on distributive justice, within an approach that most philosophers would describe as "analytic philosophy".)

Sally Haslanger

HI Alex - thanks for doing this. Note also that the diversity numbers with respect to the APA are not very good guides to the numbers in the profession in the US because not only are many professional philosophers in the US not members of the APA, but we have some reason to think that philosophers of color are especially underrepresented in the APA. Just something to keep in mind - if true, it makes the comparisons even worse. --Sally

Alexander Guerrero

Hi LK. Thanks for your comment. I'm with you on feeling comfortable submitting to these journals. I think they are (the above data notwithstanding) great journals! That might get, too, to Shelley's very important question.

To Shelley's question... I didn't have a chance to read everything, of course, but I would certainly say that the work by authors from underrepresented groups generally 'fit' with the other work published in those journals in terms of style, approach, and, to a large extent, subject matter. Some of it indistinguishably so. But other work, less so. The style might be similar, but different topics and discussions emerge. Here I'm thinking of some of these pieces:

Chike Jeffers, “The Cultural Theory of Race: Yet Another Look at Du Bois’s “The Conservation of Races,”” Ethics 123 (April 2013): 403-426.

Jennifer Morton, (2014), "Cultural Code-Switching: Straddling the Achievement Gap," Journal of Political Philosophy, 22: 259–281.

Tommie Shelby, “Justice, Deviance, and the Dark Ghetto,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 35 (Spring 2007): 126-160.

Javier Hidalgo, “Associative Duties and Immigration,” Journal of Moral Philosophy 10.3 (2013): 697-722.

And there are other examples like this.

Alexander Guerrero

Hi Sally. Thanks for your comment. I do think it would be great to get better numbers on the percentages of people from underrepresented groups in the profession, for all the reasons you mention. This is particularly true if in fact those APA numbers end up being notably low (and I agree with you that that is almost certainly the case), and thus making the "pipeline problem" arguments using those numbers all the more problematic.

John Turri

Hi Alex,

Definitely, going from 1/10 to even 2/10 could make a huge difference. Overall, I tend to think that journal outcomes are primarily a symptom rather than a cause. But the discussion here has shifted my perspective somewhat. Deep-seated habits and unstated assumptions in mainstream philosophy about "topical interests, perspectives, methodology, intuitions about relative importance," as you nicely put it, have had many bad consequences.

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